Wicker, Heitkamp Rural Water Bill Clears Senate

Legislation Would Help Rural Communities Meet Federal Safe Drinking Water Standards

June 10, 2015

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., today praised passage of the “Grassroots Rural and Small Community Water Systems Act,” S. 611, by the Senate. The bill – which passed unanimously – would help small and rural communities comply with “safe drinking water” regulations. Wicker and Heitkamp introduced the legislation earlier this year.

“Many rural communities – like those in Mississippi – lack the resources to comply with federal safe drinking water regulations,” Wicker said. “Americans deserve clean, safe, and dependable drinking water. Passing this legislation is an important step in that mission because it provides these communities with greater access to critical assistance and training programs.”

“We need to make sure all North Dakota families and businesses have access to clean and safe drinking water – including those living in rural communities,” said Heitkamp. “Last night, the Senate unanimously passed our bipartisan bill to reauthorize a program that helps make sure rural communities can provide residents with clean and safe drinking water – a vital lifeline that too often we take for granted. Folks who grew up in small towns understand, as I do, that clean water builds rural communities, helping make them stronger, more likely to thrive, and more protected for generations to come – and this bill will help accomplish that goal.”

The bipartisan legislation reauthorizes the “Safe Drinking Water Act” (SDWA), which provides technical assistance and training provisions for $15 million per year over the next six years – the same as was previously authorized – to assist small and rural public water systems in complying with National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. Wicker and Heitkamp introduced similar legislation during the 113th Congress.

More than 50,000 small and rural communities, comprising more than 90 percent of the drinking water supplies in the country, are responsible for providing safe, clean water to their citizens. The Environmental Protection Agency’s technical assistance and training programs assist these communities in securing the necessary technical expertise to improve and protect their water resources. The initiative has been effective in ensuring implementation of the SDWA in rural areas.

The last authorization of the bill expired in 2004. The bill now awaits House consideration.